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Energy minister says Bangkok floods to last a month, evacuation advisory issued in north
BANGKOK (AP) ' Thailand's energy minister said the flood crisis in Bangkok is likely to drag on for another month, as authorities issued another evacuation advisory in a northern neighborhood and floodwaters inched further into the city's heart.
Energy Minister Pichai Naripthaphan said, however, that floods may finally begin to subside in the capital by mid-November, according to a government statement late Monday. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced that she would not be attending the APEC summit this coming weekend in the U.S. due to the floods.
"Now it's time for all Thai people to help each other, so I've informed (the host) that I would not go," Yingluck said.
Top officials and experts have given varying estimates of how much Bangkok would flood and how long the threat would loom over the city, with some claiming several weeks ago the biggest window of danger to the sprawling metropolis of 9 million people had already passed.
Instead, the flood threat has only intensified, straining sandbag-stacking residents as more and more neighborhoods are swamped each day. The seemingly unstoppable floodwaters have overwhelmed canals, seeped up through drains and poured down condominium-lined highways. The water has now begun surrounding the city's northernmost subway stops, threatening to shut them down.
Evacuations have been ordered in 12 of Bangkok's 50 districts, with residents of the northern district of Klong Sam Wa told to leave Monday. The evacuations, which also effect parts of several other districts, are not mandatory, and many people are staying to protect homes and businesses.
On Tuesday, Football Federation Australia said a World Cup qualifier against Thailand scheduled for next week was moved to a smaller stadium in Bangkok because the original venue is being used as a flood evacuation center.
The FFA said in a statement that the Asian Group D match scheduled for Nov. 15 will be moved from the Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok's suburbs to the Suphachalasai Stadium downtown.
The flooding began in late July and has killed 527 people so far, mostly due to drownings. Some provinces to the north of Bangkok have been inundated for more than a month, and waters have started to recede in recent days as massive pools of runoff flow south.
In Nakorn Sawan province, Anan Dirath was forced to live on the second floor of his home for two months. But now that the water has receded to knee level, he has begun to clean up.
This week, Anan armed his two teenage children with mops, scrub brushes and garbage bags. Wading in the water, his family began scrubbing dirt off the walls and collecting the garbage around the house. He said the dirt was difficult to wash off and he has had to scrub the paint off to get rid of it.
"Oh my pretty home. It used to be a pretty two-story home," he said Monday.
In nearby Nakorn Sawan town center, where the water has dried completely, the government sponsored a cleanup day last week when roads were scrubbed down to get rid of the oily mud left from the floods. Back hoes were used to carry garbage away.
The cleanup also has begun in some parts of Thailand's ancient capital of Ayutthaya. The prime minister planned to visit the province later Tuesday to witness recovery efforts.
Associated Press writers Vee Intarakratug and Pailin Wedel contributed to this report.